A mysterious wooden statue, extracted from a peat bog in Eastern Russia in the 19th century, has been dated back 11,000 years by a team of German scientists this week, making what was already the world’s oldest wooden carving even older.
The idol was carbon dated in 1997, which indicated it was roughly 9,500 years old, but a new team of scientists has re-analyzed the object using accelerator mass spectrometry, a much more sensitive method. This revealed that it was actually created around 1,500 years earlier, at the start of the Holocene epoch – the beginning of the period in which humans began to dominate the world.
The curious idol is on display at the Sverdlovsk History Museum in Yekaterinburg, Russia. Wikimedia
Thomas Terberger, one of those involved in dating the Idol, told the Siberian Times that: "The results exceeded our expectations. This is an extremely important data for the international scientific community. It is important for understanding the development of civilization and the art of Eurasia and humanity as a whole.
"We can say that in those times, 11,000 years ago, the hunters, fishermen and gatherers of the Urals were no less developed than the farmers of the Middle East."
The unusual carving, named the Shigir Idol, is believed to have been created by an ancient civilization for religious or spiritual purposes, and has a lost language carved into it that scientists are far from deciphering.
Made from a freshly felled 157-year-old larch tree, the unknown carpenter carved the tree using stone tools, imaging 7 faces – one of which is three-dimensional – and inscribing it with symbols. The idol was initially measured at 5.3 meters (17 feet) tall, but now stands at just 2.8 meters (9 feet) after parts of the artifact went missing during the Soviet era, though not before pre-revolutionary archeologist Vladimir Tolmachev was able to draw the full piece (see below).
Vladimir Tolmachev'S drawing of the intact artifact before part of it was lost. Faces circled in red. Wikimedia
The idol, which currently sits on display at the Sverdlovsk History Museum in Yekaterinburg, Russia, is more than twice as old as both the Pyramids of Egypt and Stonehenge in the U.K.